...of Richard Feynman...

Category: By imakubex

it was my lecturer who made me realize this, and i suppose it is so very important that i think i want to put it my blog...

this is regarding how we view knowledge, and what Richard Feynman, a nobel-prize winning theoretical physicist in Caltec, said. here is the video:

the interesting, and perhaps more importantly, humbling thing to realize that a Nobel prize laureate saying and admitting that he is absolutely not sure of anything and doesn't know anything about many things...

how many of us will recognize what we know and don't know? and how many of us will be ashamed if people ask us about something, and we say we don't know?

is it simply pride? or is it deeper than that?

it is also stunning (if you watch his other videos) the way he put forth the difference between knowing and understanding...

the way he put it, through a story, that even if you know the name of a bird in 5 languages, you don't know anything about the bird, rather, you will know more about people and how they call the bird in different languages...

the same applies to everything...

we always seek to understand HOW things happen, but we really don't know WHY it happens...as Feynman put it, we have certain postulates and stuff that explains the behaviour, but we don't really know WHY it must do that...

we always miss this...

in all our hype of creating stuff, explaining stuff, we never stop to wonder about the greatness of it all..

to me personally, though i haven't been so far in my studies, i find it already humbling that we can't understand the universe in its entirety. we ourselves are always bounded by our senses; how can we claim to understand everything when we can't even see through a wall?

if one has knowledge, seek to understand what it means first, before claiming that one knows it...because that may not be the case...

and when one attains understanding, then one realizes that one will never conceive the true meaning and reason behind everything...here is where God comes in...

i suppose that is why ALLAH puts it in the Quran; 'for people of understanding'...

because when we understand, we know our limits. and when we do, we will acknowledge the greatness of the Creator...


5 comments so far.

  1. wanaimran 9 January 2008 at 12:18
    "It is in precisely knowing its limits that philosophy exists." -Emmanuel Kant-

    I suppose one can apply this dictum to one's pursuit of true knowledge and its goals as well?
  2. noman 10 January 2008 at 09:51
    salam.. hehey bro.. sorry for the late coming.. got some problem with connections lately..

    anyhow, it's always interesting when one talks about physics. certainly, i have a good reference here..

    well, God has mentioned that droplets from the oceans + equal to that will not be enough to write His Vast Knowledge (refer from 18:109).. but we can certainly strive towards it.. we know it's sort of unattainable and yet we continue to work hard.. that's the miracle of faith i guess...
  3. NSA 11 January 2008 at 19:37
    nice topic!
  4. Anang Adiwarni 12 January 2008 at 04:12
    Bismillah wal hamdulillah,
    Assalamu 'alaikum

    It's interesting that in Islamic intellectual tradition, one of the processes of deriving definition is called tahdid (lit. setting limits). My own analogy, if we are to sculpt a statue from a big stone, we 'define' the shape by removing the unwanted parts of the stone, and leave the rest within the boundary as we want it and as we can perceive it. The shape becomes the limit where the remaining part of the stone becomes the body.

    Often we don't even know what the essence of the body itself but we can safely claim that we know what it is associated with and refers to. We don't have to know the chemical composition of the stone in order to 'know' that the shape of the statue is of a knight that commemorates pride, bravery and sacrifice (ignoring any paranoid conspiracy theory). In this sense, for a guided mature man, he is able to understand such a thing and "conceive the true meaning and reason" behind it by heart. The same goes to the wonder of the creation and to the quest for WHY things happen just as they do.

    "Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day,- there are indeed Signs for men of understanding." Ali 'Imran: 190.

    How beautiful the Meanings of the Signs for the readers who know how to read them - those men of understanding.

    But can we achieve this understanding through reason alone? Is it true that "nothing is divine but what is agreeable to reason"? Doesn't that statement indirectly implies the 'divinity' of reason? What does Godel's incompleteness theorem say about it? With more and more limits of math, science & philosophy discovered in the past 100 years, it is an irony that eventually the search for certainty leads to uncertainty. Even the great Richard Feynman is satisfied to dwell in his intellectual doubt. To me, it's not entirely a statement of humbleness, but more of a submission to the tragic fate in western skepticism.

    While it is undeniable that men by themselves cannot know many things, "It is [precisely in] knowing [their] limits" that men should then submit to the One without limits.

    "Men who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth, (With the thought): "Our Lord! not for naught Hast Thou created (all) this! Glory to Thee! Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire." Ali 'Imran: 191.

    Aided by sense and reason, in the end, it is the heart that seeks and receives the true understanding.

    Allahu a'alam.

    p/s: This is not my attempt to comment on the Quranic verses but just the way I reflected upon them.
    -kawan Wan Aimran-
  5. wanaimran 12 January 2008 at 15:15
    another quotation to reflect on:

    "In expanding the field of knowledge we but increase the horizon of ignorance" - Henry Miller-

    it is interesting to note that 'heart' never directly enters the discussion about knowledge in the west.

    'intellect' is always assumed to be related to some mental faculty, some ability to reason with the mind.

    if the issues of knowledge gained through the senses or the issue regarding to the nature of the soul have had a hard time trying to enter into the western discourse on knowledge, i reckon that issues relating to the heart would have absolutely scandalized western thinkers and philosophers even more.

Something to say?